Why should you care about deadlines for registering your intellectual property?
Every business will understand that its intellectual property is a significant asset. From a branding perspective it’s how consumers recognise a brand and how a brand differentiates itself from competitors. For creators, it’s more than their brand; it’s their whole offering. So it’s important to protect intellectual property from the outset to prevent others from using it and, if others use it anyway, to make taking action against them as easy as possible.
In this article we’ll be looking specifically at registering your intellectual property: the difficulties of doing so during the Covid-19 outbreak and why it is so important.
Extensions of time
As you are likely aware, the main registrable intellectual property rights in the UK are trade marks, patents and (some) design rights. In the UK, the main bodies concerned with these rights are the UK IPO and the EU IPO (albeit in a changed capacity post-Brexit, as we explain here). These, therefore, are the entities whose deadlines are of interest; you may be aware that these entities both extended their deadlines temporarily as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The UK IPO has now confirmed that the extension to its deadlines known as the “interrupted days” scheme will end on 30 July 2020 at which point all deadlines on hold will become due. In contrast, the EU IPO ended its deadline extensions much earlier on 18 May 2020, and provided further guidance on how to obtain extensions if necessary.
If you are protecting intellectual property further afield you may be aware that that WIPO has confirmed that it will continue to operate as normal meaning that all its deadlines are to be met as usual. A number of foreign IPOs have extended deadlines, but not all, and therefore it is always worth double checking deadlines.
Signing and obtaining documentation
One of the main difficulties with complying with deadlines at the moment is getting documents signed or notarised. These issues are not unique to these times but they have certainly become more prevalent. The advantage of this prevalence is that the industry is becoming more familiar with e-signatures and, to a lesser extent, remote witnessing of documents. There are now a whole host of ways in which you can sign documents electronically meaning that there is no need for all counter-parties to be physically present at a single signing meeting. If you’d like to learn more about that, read or listen to our guide on signing documents from corporate partner Andy Moseby.
Some of the other main difficulties are ensuring that you have access to all documents you need and people to assist you with your filing application. As most drawings are or can be digitised you are likely to have an electronic copy of all documents you need access to but it’s worth making sure that your systems are accessible remotely without compromising their security. As to having access to employees, you will want to ensure that relevant staff have shared all key information with you in advance of any furloughing or change in job.
The risk in failing to meet deadlines is that you don’t manage to file or register your intellectual property by the point that you had hoped. This may expose you to competitors using that intellectual property potentially in a way that makes it more difficult for you to oppose or even for those competitors to register similar intellectual property they’ve created themselves thus preventing you from being able to register or even use your own intellectual property without infringing their registered rights.
At this time, with most intellectual property offices working remotely, and with reduced capacity, processing of applications may be delayed whether or not you meet your deadlines. Therefore, in order to minimise any delay to the processing of your application you should take all steps within your power to submit any application or further information within your deadlines.
Whilst the UK IPO has said that rights may be reinstated or restored where a failure to meet a deadline has resulted in a loss of such rights, it’s not clear what circumstances will need to exist for such a consideration or how long it may take to reinstate or restore such rights. Therefore it is imperative that rights holders do everything within their power to meet deadlines.
If you’d like to understand more about why you should register your intellectual property, how these changes affect you or how you can protect your unregistered rights you can talk to Charlotte Wilding, our head of trade marks.
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